Just in the wake of the viscous massacre of innocent people in Kasese District, and attacks on security installations in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko Districts on the 5th July 2014 that left scores of youth militia and security personnel dead, propaganda was building in Kasese where information flyers were purportedly circulated to flag a United Nations due process of proclaiming a separate Yira Republic. This information was allegedly created by Tom Stancy, a British writer and publisher.
The views I share here look into a proliferation of propaganda and alleged marginalization based on tribe that is recipe for furthering conflict in the Rwenzori Region. Whereas Tom Stacey writes about the somewhat shadowy Yira Federal Republic, it’s important to trace the origin of this subject that has potential to shape bad opinion amongst the many tribes that inhabit the Rwenzori Region.
The Yira State embodies an ambition of the Rwenzururu Revolutionaries since 1962 to curve a separate nation governed by the Bakonjo people. Insights by Bamba and Bakonjo elders point to untold suffering and marginalization against them by then Toro Kingdom administration that treated them as second citizens. Neither did the 1962 Uganda Constitution recognize Bakonjo and Bamba as citizens of equal standing in a community of diverse ethnic groups. Important to note is that the absence of government oversight in eastern Democratic Republic Congo and lack of recognition of the Bakonjo/ Banandi as a people brewed ‘genuine’ demands for self-determination and recognition that was never given to them by then the Toro government, the Colonial government, the Post-colonial government and the government in Congo. This demand gave birth to the quest for a separatist Yira Federal Republic, covering the geographical area around the Rwenzori Mountain Ranges. i.e. a large part of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo [Basuele, Ituri, Hatuele, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, and Tsopo] and the Rwenzori Region in Western Uganda.
Whereas this can be described a true demand for self-determination, different ethnic communities in the Rwenzori region express mixed feelings about Yira State propaganda. The Bamba, Basongora, Batuku, Batooro, Banyabindi and vast ethnic identities view the demand a conquest ambition of the Bakonjo.
Directly connected to the recent conflicts in the region are two issues for close attention. First, propaganda that could pitch tribe against tribe. Already most innocent Bakonjo feel betrayed by schemers of mostly Bakonjo youth attack in Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko. In mostly rural communities in the region, the accusing finger for the crimes committed is pointed to Bakonjo as a community of people but not to individuals responsible for the crime. Secondly, contentions of marginalization along ethnic lines has been reported in Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko Districts where Bamba/Babwisi, Bakonjo, Basongora, Banyabindi and Batuku are victims of marginalization in distribution of land resources, service delivery and employment.
The regional peace building consultative workshop organized by Kabarole Research and Resource Centre & Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice held at Lisieux Centre in Fort Portal on the 30th – 31st July 2014 condemned the generalization of the blame of the conflict on the Bakonjo community but on individuals implicated in the criminal acts. It was also resolved that the respective local governments in the Rwenzori Region look into claims of tribal marginalization especially in service delivery and employment decisions made in the respective district service commissions.